There was a time when Alex Rodriguez was the biggest star in baseball for his play on the field. Now, at the age of 37 (38 on July 27) and having not played a game in nearly 10 months, he is being ostracized by his employer and clinging to his career for dear life.
But what if all of the drama was happening at a different time in Rodriguez's career? If A-Rod was 27, when he hit .298/.396/.600 with 47 home runs en route to winning an MVP award, how would things be playing out?
Right now, despite all of the talk about Rodriguez, he is basically famous for the reasons that Roy Jones Jr. is famous. He hasn't really done anything noteworthy in a long time, but people still talk about him, read articles about him and pay attention when his face is on television because we are fascinated by this person.
The latest ridiculousness to come out of the Rodriguez camp saw him consult an outside doctor for an opinion on his strained quad that has prevented the New York Yankees from bringing him back to the big leagues.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Dr. Michael Gross, the orthopedic director of The Sports Medicine Institute at Hackensack University, told WFAN's Mike Francesa that Rodriguez has no injury. In light of that, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman issued a statement, once again throwing his third baseman under the bus:
In media reports, we have since learned that the doctor in question has acknowledged that he did not examine Mr. Rodriguez and that he was not retained to do a comprehensive medical examination of Mr. Rodriguez. Contrary to the Basic Agreement, Mr. Rodriguez did not notify us at any time that he was seeking a second opinion from any doctor with regard to his quad strain.
Adding to that, Dr. Gross had been fined by the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners for failing to "adequately ensure proper patient treatment involving the prescribing of hormones, including steroids," via ESPN's Andrew Marchand. He was fined a civil penalty of $30,000, and he had to pay $10,000 in court costs.
That just throws more fuel on an already well-lit fire between Rodriguez and the Yankees, coming on the heels of Rodriguez saying that his personal doctor had cleared him and Cashman telling him to keep his mouth shut (in much more explicit terms).
We can laugh at the idiocy of this whole thing, but we can also surmise that the Yankees want to keep Rodriguez off the field in hopes that he does get suspended by Major League Baseball, or, at the very least, to collect insurance money on the $29 million he is owed this year.
But the Yankees are also doing this with Rodriguez coming off hip surgery that left him a shell of his former self last October in the playoffs, when Joe Girardi was forced to pull him late in American League Championship Series games against Detroit.
Considering where the Yankees are at right now, fourth place in the AL East and 6.5 games behind Boston, with very little production at third base (.217/.278/.291), Rodriguez's production last year (.272/.353/.430) would be more than welcome.
Yet how would the Yankees react to the situation if he were still in his prime and an MVP-caliber player?
While there are no perfect examples of this scenario, because Major League Baseball is hellbent on making Rodriguez the face of its anti-steroid and performance-enhancing drug campaign, Barry Bonds had a similar end to his career.
Bonds had a peak that seemed to last forever, winning seven MVP awards, alienating friends and teammates along the way, but getting mass praise for being such an incredible player.
Rodriguez has won three MVP awards, is regarded as one of the greatest all-around players in the history of the sport, has always struggled to fit in after leaving Seattle and is a constant target of vitriol from his own fans.
Bonds never had to deal with that kind of venom in San Francisco. Those fans decided long ago that he was their guy, and they'd love him as long as he played for them. Eventually, the Giants decided that it was time to move on from the sideshow that Bonds brought with him in the final years of his career.
Bonds wasn't able to play much defense and struggled to appear in more than 130 games once he hit the age of 40, but his final season in 2007 saw him post a .276/.480/.565 line with 28 home runs in 340 at-bats. He led the league in on-base percentage and had a 132-54 walk-to-strikeout ratio.
Bonds still wanted to play after the 2007 season, but no teams signed him. His agent Jeff Borris claimed that all 30 MLB teams were blackballing his client. Bonds certainly came with his fair share of baggage, but speaking strictly in terms of on-field performance, he should have been signed in a heartbeat.
Even when he was causing headaches for the Giants, they stuck with him throughout the early 2000s because he was helping them win games and took them to a World Series in 2002 that they nearly won (lost in seven games to the Angels).
Superstars in sports get preferential treatment. If you are great at what you do and help the team win, you are going to be given the benefit of the doubt until the people in charge decide that you aren't worth it anymore.
The Yankees know that they need Rodriguez to be a better team, but if you were to catch Cashman or anyone in the front office at an honest moment, they would tell you that this year's team isn't going to win a championship.
This year seemed like a major transitional season for the Yankees, who were trying to juggle a lot of bad contracts with relatively cheap one-year deals in hopes of reducing the budget enough to avoid paying millions of dollars in luxury-tax penalties.
Things started off well enough, with Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells turning back the clock and overachieving in April to drive the Yankees to a 30-18 start. Since then, though, they have gone 24-30, and injuries to major players have certainly played a part.
Instead of putting Rodriguez back on the field as MLB concludes its Biogenesis investigation, the Yankees have done their best to keep him in the shadows, hoping he will be beaten into submission and retire or possibly give them an avenue to get out of the remaining years and dollars on his contract.
Rodriguez would have gotten more leeway with the Yankees if he were still at his peak. But since he is sputtering along as he nears the end of his career and is more of a distraction than his production is worth, the team has no incentive to put him back in the lineup right now.
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